Food is very big business in America, and that means companies and brands with immense advertising and PR heft competing for consumer dollars. On the surface, this strikes most Americans as harmless; it’s capitalism, after all: It’s the way things work.

But on a deeper psychological level, most consumers perceive food not only according to their specific likes and dislikes, but within the context of an unnatural vacuum created by decades worth of marketing campaigns from food growers, distributors and sellers.

For example, we like our food to be flawless; why else would so many supermarket customers spend time examining melons, tomatoes and onions as if they’re precious stones? Our trained eyes also like big, colorful displays of food lining the aisles, and we don’t see overwhelming portions as sources of waste but ways to get more for our money. So a little excess occurs every now and then; no big deal, right?

Well, consider this quote from a recent article in The Washington Post:

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